Mujica wins Uruguayan presidency

President-elect Jose Mujica celebrates his second-round election victory in Montevideo, Nov. 29, 2009.

President-elect Jose Mujica celebrates his second-round election victory in Montevideo, Nov. 29, 2009.

Tuesday, Dec. 1

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – Uruguay’s presidential election was won by former guerrilla Jose Mujica in a Nov. 29 runoff. It marked the start of an election season in South America that will continue until October 2010.

Mujica, 74, will succeed Tabare Vazquez as the head of Uruguay’s second leftist government in 100 years. He promised, according to Reuters, to continue the present administration’s moderate policies, which have allowed the country to withstand the global economic crisis.

With votes counted at 96.22 percent of polling stations, the Electoral Court’s official figures, according to EFE, show Mujica received 53 percent of the vote and his center-right opponent, Luis Alberto Lacalle, received 43 percent.

“There are no winners or losers. We have just elected a government that needs everybody,” said Mujica in his election night victory speech in Montevideo. Referring to the floods that had affected Uruguay in the days before the election, according to Clarín, he told thousands of his supporters gathered on the bank of the River Plate that it was “not the time for a speech on policy … We’re getting wet.”

Former President Lacalle, 68, conceded defeat and congratulated Mujica, who, he said, “is now everyone’s president. This is one country,” reported EFE.

The Broad Front is a coalition of center-left parties that supported the Vazquez administration’s free-market policies and pro-U.S. stance. La Nación identified several factors that contributed to its victory. First, was an effective campaign based on the promise of continuity in the figure of Mujica’s vice presidential running mate, Danilo Astori, a former Economy Minister in the Vazquez government. Then there was Mujica himself, a candidate who, although unorthodox, was always in touch with the electorate. Finally, there was the opposition’s mistakes of communication.

Vazquez leaves office with a 71 percent approval rating, a record in this country of 3.4 million people, and with a GDP of US$19.2 billion.

Later this year, there will be presidential elections in Bolivia and Chile. In 2010, Colombia and Brazil will go to the polls.

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